Giving Ventures Podcast: A New Era of Equal Opportunity

Race, Ethnicity ‘Shouldn’t Be a Factor’ in College Admissions

The Supreme Court in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard recently ruled accepting and rejecting students based on the color of their skin is unconstitutional. The 6-3 decision unravels affirmative action in college admissions and ushers in a new era of opportunity in higher ed.

“I think I’m with the vast majority of Americans who believe that a student’s race or ethnicity shouldn’t be a factor in whether they’re accepted or whether they’re rejected,” says Edward Blum. “Sometimes causes and movements find you. You don’t really go looking for them.”

Blum founded Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit committed to dismantling affirmative action, nearly a decade ago — after 20 years of studying legal and policy issues related to race and ethnicity — and first argued the Harvard case nine years ago.

Fair Admissions, Merit Matter

The driving force behind Blum’s advocacy on the issue? He says it’s inherently unfair for all-around high-achieving students to face repeated rejection from major colleges and universities while their underperforming peers are catapulted into early acceptance.

“It’s one thing for a really bright young student to apply to 10 schools and only be admitted to a couple. But it’s one thing for a kid with a 1590 SAT [score], valedictorian — an accomplished varsity athlete — to be rejected from all of them yet see some of his schoolmates with far lower academic accomplishments be accepted to them,” says Blum.

Moving from Litigator to Admissions Watchdog

As Blum celebrates his legal victory, he plans to also refocus his efforts from primarily litigation mode to more of an investigative mode as he anticipates colleges and universities will find loopholes to getting around the affirmative-action prohibition.

“We’re going to probably take off our litigation cap for now and put on a new ‘watchdog’ cap. We’re going to be examining what public universities are doing with their admissions policies … and we are going to dig deep into the private-school world of admissions officers.”

College Administrators Should Focus on Education

Devon Westhill, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, likewise works to foster a fair, “colorblind” admissions process on college campuses across the country — namely, discouraging discrimination and encouraging ideological pluralism on campus.

“What we know in a closed system — in a zero-sum game, which is what college admissions are — that, if some people are going to get preferences for their race, other people must be held down because of their race,” says Westhill.

Instead of applying unfair admissions processes amid their search for economic advancement for all, college and university administrators concerned about economic inequality and academic access for the disadvantaged should equip struggling applicants with skills they need to excel.

“What schools should be focused on is educating their students the best way they possibly can; seeking out truth; and admitting students based on their merit — this is test scores and grades but also what they bring to the table that is different or unique about them that promotes a more ‘true diversity’ type of view of each individual.”

Don’t Make Assumptions About a Person Based on Their Race

Kenny Xu, president and primary spokesperson for Color Us United, like Westhill, takes issue with affirmative action and says the practice is condescending and inherently racist as it’s a system that presumes a lot about a person and his or her background based solely on their racial or ethnic origins. This, he says, is wrong.

“We shouldn’t be making assumptions about a person based on the color of their skin. That’s what ‘colorblind,’ fundamentally, means. What the other side wants is they want you to look at somebody who is black and say, ‘Oh, poor pity you; let’s give you some unmerited preferences’ or to look at somebody who is white and say, ‘Man, you’re privileged because you’re white.’ I reject that,” he says. “The trick is to get to know somebody as an individual, not as a member of a race.”

Color Us United is a nonprofit that pushes back against divisive policies in schools and industries that promote the notion ‘America is a hateful country,’ reads it website. Instead, its leadership promotes merit, equality of opportunity, diversity of thought and straight talk by combating diversity, equity and inclusion programs that achieve anything but those ideals.

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